Editorial: Living large on the backs of taxpayers

Sep. 08, 2013 @ 01:25 AM

The highest-paid state employee we know of is a temp.

There’s good and bad news in that. The good is that he’s a temp, so the state won’t be issuing Tiffany paychecks to him much longer. The bad is that this fits a growing pattern of excessive pay in one particular state department.

The temp is Joe Hauck, who in January entered a contract to be a “senior adviser” for the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.

In the eight months Hauck has worked for DHHS, he has been paid more than $228,000, the Raleigh News & Observer reported, and his contract tops out at $310,000 by the time it expires in November.

DHHS is run by Secretary Aldona Wos. The N&O reported that Hauck came to DHHS from New Breed Logistics, where Wos’ husband is CEO, which makes the pay look even more unseemly.

To earn that money, Hauck “assisted the secretary in quickly assembling a top-notch management team in order to reorganize, redirect and restructure the department,” DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said.

It takes paying someone $300,000 in order to assemble a “top-notch” management team? That would explain why the economic recovery is so slow – almost no one can afford that, so everyone’s management team must stink.

That seems unlikely, especially since DHHS seems to be gaining a reputation as a place to earn outsized pay.

Diaz, you may remember, is a 24-year-old recently promoted to the position of communications director, at a salary of $85,000, despite having no experience or background relevant for the job.

At the same time that Diaz was promoted out of obscurity into the upper-middle class, Matt McKillip, a 24-year-old with no health care experience, was promoted to “chief policy adviser” for DHHS at a salary of $87,500.

DHHS also has hired Les Merritt, a former state auditor, under a personal services contract that paid him a total of $58,500 just for June and July. Though the N&O could find no details showing how long his contract lasts or whether his pay is capped, like Hauck’s, that two-month pay level would equate to an annual salary of more than $350,000.

What in the world is going on?